Quick recap of the first 5 weeks

Quick recap of the first 5 weeks

Based on what I’ve learned from the material from the first 5 weeks of the Science of Happiness course, there are many factors to consider when it comes to mental health, our behaviors, and our attitudes towards life, others, and ourselves. I always think of Dr. Walsh’s favorite pie chart since a lot of it has to do with genetics and our environment. However, there is still that percentage where it is completely up to us. So even if we are affected by something or someone in a negative way and it feels like it’s completely out of our control, we still have the ability to take action and overcome it.

It wasn’t until I took this class that I learned about Keye’s model of complete mental health/flourishing, positive psychology, and the 24 strengths. After talking about Keye’s model and positive psychology, it made sense to me how despite an individual who has a mental illness is still able to live happily and do not allow it to consume themselves. By learning and utilizing coping mechanisms, establishing and maintaining meaningful and healthy relationships, and immersing themselves in activities that help them feel connected to their community and/or is something of interest, anyone can overcome the negative emotions/hardships that come their way. 

I feel as though all of the topics that have been covered in class within the first 5 weeks go hand-in-hand since genetics plays a huge role in both our mental health and our behaviors as well as our environment and ourselves. The absence of mental illness does not necessarily mean that one is flourishing, according to Keye’s model, just as how having a mental illness does not mean that one is languishing. It is really up to our own actions and decisions as well as the cards that we’ve been dealt with in order to either be languishing or flourishing. Positive psychology teaches us how to achieve the flourishing state, especially by defining what virtues and strengths that are the most prevalent to us and learning how to utilize and/or improve them. If we become aware of our dominant strengths and the ones we need to work on, we can lead more fulfilling and happier lives. 

The activities that resonated with me were the family tree, automatic thoughts, and VIA strengths survey exercises. The family tree made me realize how different yet alike my family and I could be, especially since all of my siblings are half-siblings! I never really thought about it until we had to complete that assignment, and it made me feel silly for not realizing it sooner. It was also really fun for me to talk to my mom about it and made me feel closer to her and my other relatives.  The automatic thoughts assignment reassured me about how resilient I am since I don’t usually let negative emotions get the best of me. I’ll allow myself to feel whatever it is that I do at that point in time but I don’t usually stay hung up on it more than I should, which is something I know a lot of people struggle with. So it made me feel like I’ve grown as a person since I’ve had my share of hardships just like everyone else and I have not let them get in the way of moving forward.

I think out of the three exercises, the VIA strengths survey was my favorite of them all! I enjoy taking tests that help me learn more about myself and I felt like my results were very accurate. I also appreciated how Dr. Walsh shared with us 304 ways for us to improve the strengths at the bottom of our list, which is something I will try to do. It was nice to see how we compared to everyone else in our class when we had our Friday discussion about our strengths and talk to people with either the same top strength or one that was different from our own. I will definitely take the test again in a year to see if I’ve changed!

Overall, this class was not what was I was expecting it to be. I look forward to going to lecture each day (even though I’m late sometimes. Sorry!!), especially the beginning of class when we can breathe a little by practicing mindfulness. It’s also nice how we have different guest lecturers who touch on the various topics for the class and getting to interact with everyone each Friday. I also feel as though the weekly assignments are relevant to what we talk about! I am looking forward to what is to come later on.

Photo: http://chibird.com/post/165810994346/its-so-important-to-realize-that-while-you-cant

I commented on hsummer’s and ajohnson65’s blog posts.

Blog Post #1

Keyes Model of Complete Mental Health and Flourishing takes an interesting perspective on mental health. It states that mental health is not dualistic, it is a “continuum of both the absence of mental illness and flourishing.” Flourishing, by definition, is developing successfully; thriving. Keyes looks at it in a similar way. He says flourishing in a mental health aspect is how we feel about our lives and how we are functioning in our lives. In my life, I have come to realize that my mental state and flourishing can improve drastically depending where I am. After my freshman year at VCU, I began to realize how much more I flourish at home rather than at school. There are a lot of things to consider why I may feel this way. When I am home from college I tend to be free of school responsibilities, with my family and my dog, and having some sort of celebration. I also adore the place I grew up and it’s beautiful scenery and natural surroundings can soothe me in an instant. As soon as I hop off I-64 my stress and fears completely melt away. I grew up in a small town with a very close support system so being home makes me feel comforted. When I am at school I have a tendency to be stressed out and in a mental state that causes me to overthink. The business of the city makes me feel the need to always be on the go, I feel rushed. My freshman year, I also struggled with my homelife, boyfriend, and roommates. The adjustment for college was rough for me and I had to get through it. It wasn’t the best time and I spent most nights overthinking whether the littlest things made my roommates not like me or wondering why my boyfriend with a full-time job and a full-time student schedule didn’t “want” to hang out with me, even though we were both just too busy. Although I love my choice in school and being a small town girl enjoy the city, I do have a better mental state and flourish more at home.

My favorite topic during class was the genetic influences on our behavior. I found it thrilling to draw my family tree and deeply consider why I am who I am. Twenty to forty percent of our depression, anxiety, and personality souly come from genetics. While I have never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, my grandmother (my father’s mother) and my sister have both. I do have some symptoms of anxiety such as, the tendency to overthink and small minor panic attacks. I think the reason I don’t have diagnosable anxiety or depression is because my personality can balance it out. I have a lot of my moms bubbly, funny, and positive attitude. Even when something is bothering me I can’t help but to crack jokes and be bubbly around the people who having nothing to do with the issue. I also get my compassion and caring for others from my mother. She majored in Physical Education and received her masters in teaching from the University of Virginia. She has always had a joy for working with children and every time I have seen her interact with kids I can’t help but smile. She later went on to work for Region Ten for adults with disabilities. I am currently majoring in Early Education and I began working at a summer camp this past summer for kids with learning disabilities. Alcohol and drug dependence has a rate of forty to seventy percent heritability. This was also intriguing to me because I honestly thought this rate would be higher. My dad has struggled with addiction in the past, thus being the reasons I will never put myself in a situation where I tempted by drugs. Since I am so aware of this issue running in my genes I take extreme precaution when it comes to drugs and alcohol. I have made the mistake of trying nicotine vapes and found myself getting addicted to it at an extremely fast rate. I realized this dependability may be because of my genetics and decided to stop because it puts me even more at risk. Lastly, we learned that seventy to eighty percent of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder can be passed down to me. My father and his father have a history of bipolar disorder and bipolar depression. I don’t notice too much of this mental illness other than my tendency to be over sensitive and over emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m very open about my emotions and I frequently cry over teeny tiny things in my life whether they’re good or bad.

“When you can’t find the light, That got you through the cloudy days, When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright, You feel like you’ve lost you’re way, When the candlelight of home, Burns so very far away, Well, you got to let your soul shine.”I can vividly remember as a child my mom would sing this Allman Brothers when it came on the radio in the car. She always told me that no matter what happens in life, if I keep a positive attitude and “let my soulshine” I’d get through it. This was an influence of positive psychology that I grew up with and carry with me to this day. Since happiness is based on power of positive thinking, it can truly change someone’s mental state, as we learned in class, “if you want to be happy, be.” I look at it kind of like a “fake til’ you make it” strategy. Which can actually help me personally in life.

Being positive is part of my top five strengths in life. My number one strength was appreciation of beauty and kindness. This means in my everyday life, I take the time to enjoy the little beauties around me. From the open fields in and bright night stars in my hometown, to the street art of Richmond, these little moments give me a positive outlook no matter what I’m going through. Another one of my strengths is gratitude, which goes hand in hand with the appreciation of beauty because I am grateful for the little things in life. My third strength is my humor. I tend to laugh my way out of sticky situations or pain. These three strengths are all grouped into transcendence category.


Blog Post 1

Blog Post 1


                 Image result for happiness

The first five weeks of the Science of Happiness class have been very informational and interesting. The content we discuss and learn are all things I knew existed, but now I have an understanding of what they are and how they relate. The way people feel and how there minds work all connects in a way, and that’s what we talk about in class. It’s not directly said, but looking into the information we are taught, that’s what I’ve gotten out of it.

Starting with how the way people act, there physical traits, personality, and even on a mental level are almost all connected by genetics or the environment people are in. That was an interesting lesson because we talked about how much certain traits are influenced by genetics, and some were kind of shocking. The ones that surprised me most were addiction, anxiety, and depression. I assumed they related differently than they actually did. The Keye’s model of complete mental health/flourishing related to genetics because the status of mental health and illness can be affected by genetics. It also can be influenced by the environment that someone is in. Talking about depression, anxiety, and mood states was a really interesting topic. Anxiety is something almost everyone on my mom’s side of my family has and most of us are being treated for it with medicines. I focused on that when I was doing my family tree and it really got me thinking. Then when we talked about what the brain goes through in those different states it made me understand the concept and appreciate what this class is. I never really thought about how serious that can be, and sometimes I would feel sad and just say I’m so depressed. Now I know that I am NOT depressed, it is so much more than just a feeling. It’s something that people seriously deal with, and I feel like now I have an understanding and won’t use such terms lightly. The introduction to positive psychology was one of my favorite things we talked about. It really made me reflect on my life and how I am living it. The theory and concept of PERMA, positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments, is a total game changer. To actually sit and think about how these words and their meanings fall into my life and shape who I am is crazy. It is really helpful to be exposed to things like this. The test we took to find our top strengths was awesome. My top strength was humor… which makes total sense, but being able to see it and think about how that is really made a difference. I definitely want to keep taking the test throughout the years to see how I’ve grown and changed.

All of these concepts we have talked about are interesting and helpful. They are ways to understand how your mind works, and how other things can shape how you feel. The class truly is a study on how to be the happiest person you can be. I am excited to see what else there is to come, and I hope that through the semester I get a better understanding on how to become a happier me!

Image link: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=imgres&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjT1KuSwtLdAhVrT98KHfb9CJ0QjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.harvardmagazine.com%2F2016%2F11%2Fcan-happiness-make-you-healthier&psig=AOvVaw2W_QIM2mDV4blgxmFJlBE7&ust=1537839885521092

SOH 18 Valeria Dolgov

SOH 18 Valeria Dolgov

Over the last 5 weeks I have learned so much about mental health and how there is so much room to make choices even though you might have a predisposition to a certain mental illness. In the Keyes’ model it shows how even when you have a mental illness you can still flourish by choosing to. But you can also languish or be in a middle area where neither is happening. However, the PERMA model which stands for positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments was also another interesting topic I learned about during these weeks. This model creates building blocks for a positive life in which one can flourish.

What I was most surprised by was my highest strength which is honesty. I had never seen myself as a truly honest person until I took the test, and for the last few days I have been noticing that quality. If I hadn’t taken this test I would’ve never know that about myself.

During Dr.Sood’s lecture about anxiety I had also learned something new, which was that alcohol and coffee make anxiety worse. With this information I quickly called her and told her of this and was able to help decrease her anxiety.

Blog Post #1

Blog Post #1

When I first started UNIV 391 Science of Happiness, I expected exactly what Dr. Walsh outlined the class was not going to be on the first day. I anticipated some form of how to be happy through just telling yourself to do so.

To say the least I was very surprised. Then when I learned the the class was going to be based off science and scientific studies, I got a little worried that this class would not be for me. However what I have learned from Dr. Walsh and the other guest speakers has been nothing but strait forward and informational.

In one powerful lecture we learned about, Keyes’ Model of Complete Mental Health/Flourishing. This model says that either you are absent of mental illness or you have a presence of mental health. Also that both the absence of mental illness and the presence of flourishing go hand and hand. What those two statements mean are very strait forward, either you have mental illness or you do not and if you do not then you are flourishing. Flourishing is described as how you feel about your life, and how well you are functioning in our lives as individuals and in society. The model also highlights being languishing which means a life characterized by a lack of interest. In this circular model you can be either languishing or flourishing with mental illness or without mental illness. It is important to note that you can be either of these apposing emotions and have or not have mental illness.

In a few lectures so far we have learned about the influences on behavior that genetics plays. One example of what we learned about genetics is the amount of medication that we all respond to in a positive way. Based on your genetics we all respond to the amount of medication that works for us differently.

We also know that genetics influences psychiatric disorders, chronic physical neuro-disorders and rare physical disorders. By having a rare allele(variant form of a gene) this can have a large impact on whether you have one of these disorders.

In class we did a family tree exercise and we picked out traits that are passed down your family tree. Most people picked physical things you can see like red hair or blue eyes. However these genetic disorders can also be more likely based on your genetics or your predisposition to other diseases like cancer and diabetes.

We also got a brief introduction into positive psychology in one lecture early on. Dr. Walsh pointed out that psychology for the longest time focused on  what was wrong with people and positive psychology didn’t even exist. This happened because when soldiers came back from World War II they were the first generation to have a high level of post traumatic stress disorder and psychology were hired to study them to figure out what was wrong with them. Later a few psychologists started on our strengths to improve our overall mental health.

Psychologist Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman along with 50 other collaborators made a methodology called VIA classification system. This methodology became a book and later a survey that we actually took for class. The survey asks you a lot of questions that determine your strengths, weaknesses and everything in between.

After taking the survey I found it to be very factual to the way I see myself. My top five strengths were gratitude, leadership, social intelligence, honesty, and perseverance. Even my bottom five attributes I found to be true, while some of them were hard to swallow about myself they were also factual. I found that exercise to be very insightful.

Blog Post 1 – A Reflection of the Self

Blog Post 1 – A Reflection of the Self

During this week of being in the Science of Happiness class not only did I learn new topics and ideas, but I was also able to reflect those topics and thoughts to my own life. When we first discussed the concept of Keyes’s Model of Complete Mental Health it sparked the idea that one can have a mental illness and at the same time be flourishing. This model seems to go well with someone’s genetic makeup on their behavior and how they can change their way of life by their application.

For a personal standpoint in this case, I have an anxiety disorder, specifically both Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder. There are some mental health issues that appear in many of my family members and I just so happen to be a part of that many. Before in my life I used to really struggle with my anxiety as it did take a huge part of my life of me having to worry about the little things that many others would just brush off. In those cases, I would say that my position was in between low mental illness and high mental health. Now that I am older and have a better control in my life and a better understanding of my anxiety triggers, I would say that I have high mental health and moderate to low mental illness as my anxiety can creep back up from time to time.

When we started the topic of Positive Psychology, I liked how I could again relate this back to how I deal with my mental health as I in someway do use the PERMA model before knowing what it was. I developed some coping strategies for myself during my times when I feel like I’m on the verge of another attack (P), I have talked to people who have been going through similar cases as me and those that were just to listen (R), and I also would take a step back at myself and feel great when I have stopped an attack or feeling that would bug me (A).

Having again the use of the PERMA model and the activity class when we all grouped together based on our top strength is how I cope and deal with my issues. My top strength is Humor and as it is shown in my image, I use it as a way to make myself feel better by laughing at the situation. To laugh to keep from crying.

Here’s to you: Older Siblings,Twins, Students, Friends, The Misunderstood and Seniors of Any Sort

Here’s to you: Older Siblings,Twins, Students, Friends, The Misunderstood and Seniors of Any Sort

In the first lecture by Dr. Walsh, Introduction to SOH, I assessed the key words in the slides, saw that the class was affiliated with COBE and formulated the class as being a psychology class about mental health. During my first semester as a freshman, I took Sociology. Taking a Psychology class was intriguing to me because my sister and brother, who are also students at VCU, told me they really enjoyed their Introduction to Psychology classes. However, as the class has proceeded and as we do different activities to be mindful, I think that I have a better understanding of what Positive Psychology is. In that is a way to shut the world out and any concerns from our minds. I think we as a society are always active until we become physically tired, and our bodies tell us to stop. I think it is from constantly being in our own heads from comparisons, wanting to do things correctly, fear, lack of communication, intimidation and assumptions.

In the first lecture of The Science of Happiness, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I heard about the class from my friend and I wanted a class that I perceived to be a fun class. I am a Biology major with a Chemistry minor on the Pre-professional track, so our fun classes (classes not directly affiliated with a pre- professional track or classes that interest me) tend to come in our Junior and Senior years. This semester I am taking Biology of Drugs and Medicinal Botany Lab. Although, I can tell they are challenging classes, I am fascinated by the idea that drugs are mostly formulated from plants and mimic body processes and receptors. But, I directly learned about the processes of specific drugs and their actions from my classes of Cell Biology and the Biology of Drugs. And, I figured out in my current journey of being more mindful, that I love connecting the different processes that I see in my classes to things that happen in my life. I think that is the way I learn best. And, if I am being honest with myself, I think that I as a student have felt a little overwhelmed from the amount of course work and the time it takes to study. Once I know the course work, I know it well in that moment, but I think we as students are constantly thinking about which assignments are due, when an exam is, volunteer hours, how to form a relationship with your professors, etc. And, for some people I think that it is hard to say, “I need help,” if that is something new and they are afraid of what someone might say back or what will they think of you.

In Dr. Dick’s lecture, The Keyes’ Model of Complete Mental Health, I really liked the quote “feeling good about a life in which you function well.” It said to me that when you are healthy mentally and physically, you function well academically and emotionally. But, you have to find that within yourself because people who do not know you will try to put what they could possibly be struggling with internally or their perceptions onto you. The people you are surrounded by will sometimes determine how you react to certain events. I feel that this could stem from a variety of misunderstandings. Maybe, they are fearful for you, of you or think of you in a certain way. But, how I view people is that whatever they say, good or bad, to me is a reflection of themselves, not me. This blends the idea of Automatic Thoughts, from the Week 4 Exercise. I can tell that sometimes when I’m focused on something else and someone says something to me, I am forced to break from my own rhythm and deal with the situation at hand. The way I process information could be from how my mom, dad, grandparents and my entire family have always spoken to me and/or how I have genetically been wired to think. However, if someone says something to me that maybe didn’t make sense in the way they asked it, I used to think to myself I guess this is what you meant, and I responded in that way. But, I have found that guessing what someone is thinking hasn’t ever helped me to get a better understanding. I have worked on how to communicate better with people. These skills can be learned in the work force, parents, friends, different events, etc. It’s important to communicate well, and it does take practice. But, it’s also important to communicate with the people who maybe speak a different language, look a little different than you, learns differently than you or has a different personality than you, because as my mom has always emphasized to me, “we are social beings.”

The relationships that really last are the ones that someone shows you that they care for you in their own unique ways. But from the perspective of a college senior, older sibling and twin, know when to say something isn’t right and comes up with a way to be mindful and speak to someone you trust and you know won’t post to social media. But, never assume that someone will be ok with you posting their picture to social media. Some people really do have boundaries, morals and expectations. When people feel that someone has crossed the limit I think that is when people start to have their feelings hurt. Which can force someone to replay an experience until they are able to vent to someone they trust about the situation that made them feel a certain way because of betrayal, and I think that can be a slippery slope.

In the Depression and Mood States Lecture, I learned that Clinical Depression and Anxiety can only be diagnosed by a health care professional. But, the factors that contribute to depression are manifested by your body, mind and/or spirit not being in balance. Reflecting on the term depression, itself, without being interested in further researching the details I thought it meant that it was a disease because TV, social media and people were treated for it. I just feel like a lot of miscommunication occurs when people are timid about approaching people and that’s when rumors and gossip can spread. When you are not exposed to a situation in your life and especially in an environment that’s new sometimes you can have feelings of doubt. I have been fortunate enough to have a wide span of VCU family, friends, my close family and colleagues in my life to help me through my college journey and I am happy that they have been here while I still grow as a person, student and aspiring Healthcare professional. In my mindful journey, I would say If you ever feel like you need a friend, a classmate or cousin (someone who feels like a cousin) who maybe sits alone is always safe. But, know the difference between who is a classmate is and who a friend is and I think everything else will fall into place. And, start off meeting in the library if you need a safe space.  https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1&biw=1280&bih=726&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=AiWoW6VGruzmAoTwruAK&q=mind+growing&oq=mind+growing&gs_l=img.3..0l3j0i30j0i8i30l3j0i24j0i10i24.9030.12466..12833…0.0..0.95.929.12……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0i67.J1zpT0KhGAY#imgrc=pV7nwClET7QlbM:


Blog Post #1

Over the past five weeks, I have learned a lot about myself through this class. I now understand the difference from what I thought was anxieties and depressions and what it actually is and, knowing that, I can apply it to my lifestyle. The first couple of classes dealt with understanding nature and nurture and how they coincide with genetics to make you who you are. What stood out the most in this class throughout the first five weeks was the Keye’s Model. Looking over the model, it made perfect sense; low mental illness and flourishing ideally went together since that is clearly where everyone wants to be at. But when we got to high mental illness and flourishing, it threw a curve ball at me because I, honestly, thought it was “stupid and impossible to have both”. You see, many people have mental illnesses and certain strengths and weaknesses about themselves that they choose to let make or break them.            For instance, take two people with anxiety that is through the roof. One of them is the “classical case” of anxiety: takes anti-anxiety medication to help them relax, constantly worried about what’s next or what is uncertain about their future. The other person, however, also suffers from anxiety and takes the medication from time-to-time, yet they have practiced being mindful (the 2-3 minutes we take at the beginning of each class), they have a good grip on bringing themselves back to reality and realize that they can control a good amount of what happens to them. They are essentially flourishing despite their mental illness. That is what I have taken away from the first five weeks of class. I learned to take what you are given and to be the best you that you can be. I have learned that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. Take your strengths and flourish.

Blog Post 1

Blog Post 1

The class for me so far has gotten off to a slow start in terms of peaking my interest regarding any one topic.  I guess the most convincing information I have observed in class surrounds the PERMA model and Keyes model.  Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build Theory” seemed to make the most sense to me because of the way it appears to perpetuate good things in your life in a cyclical form through positive emotion.  I know this thought is unfounded, though it feels worth sharing, it seems likely that if you maintain a state of positive emotion for an extended period of time not only will your day to day quality of life go up, but you could enter into your flow zone where you are just dominating the challenges that come up.   Though the idea of having to work just hard enough in something that is manageable seems almost too idealistic and I do not agree with this being a good judgement of how you are doing as a person.  A perspective that I hold is if obstacles arise, given you have been implementing methods to maintain a good life outlook, you will possess the power to rise to the occasion.  The information I was most surprised about was the amount of genetic influence present in particular situations.  I never considered someones ability to be predisposed to certain mental aliments such as depression the same way people are predisposed to things like breast cancer.  I quite enjoyed the explanation of the concept in class because it seemed very balanced and acknowledging of the possibility people can be influenced to different degrees regarding genetics.

Image result for predisposed

Am I Predisposed To Addiction?


The Power of Positive Psychology

The Power of Positive Psychology

It is easy for depression, anxiety, and mood states to take over during difficult, stressful times. But, why? Learning about positive psychology and mental health models can change one’s perspective on their own mental state and well-being.  Difficult times are inevitable, but the ways in which you react to them can yield different outcomes.

Mental health has maintained a negative stigma, even though millions and millions of people are affected by it. Becoming educated on mental illnesses during class was extremely beneficial, because now I feel more equip to help those close to me suffering with depression or anxiety.  I also learned not to engage in “emotional reasoning” when dealing with feelings of depression. Because one of my top strengths in the VIA report was judgement, I often find myself “emotional reasoning”. Now, I am more aware of how this strength can help and hurt me. Understanding that human behavior is composed of both environmental and genetic influences was also helpful when recognizing why people think and feel the way they do.  

I was surprised by the number of automatic negative thoughts I had during our tracking exercise.  I don’t consider myself to be a negative person, but whenever doubts or insecurities enter my mind, it is hard to let them go.  These negative thoughts lingered and affected my interaction with myself and those around me. Initiating positive psychology into my life has enabled me to combat these negative thoughts with positive thinking.   By following “PERMA”, I also ascribe meaning and accomplishment into my life differently. Instead of worrying about a particular grade in class, I try my best, and move on. This has helped me stay in the present moment and simply “be”.  Here is a quote I found that I personally resonate with: “It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis”.  I can relate this to Keyes’ model of complete mental health, which is a continuum of both the absence of mental illness and the presence of flourishing.  

Photo: Google Images

Blog Post #1

Blog Post #1

See the source image

In the simplest terms I can think of (I am not a psychologist or a good writer), Keyes’ model of complete mental health/flourishing is the result of all the other things we have talked about in these first 5 weeks coming together. Personally, I don’t think that they differ at all, they all fit together in a perfect was to describe how the model works. For example, if your family had a history of depression and you yourself suffered from anxiety, yet you learned how to basically “forgive and forget” and let go of the things that bothered you in the past, practiced mindfulness every single day, and cultivated your strengths of humor and love to find ways out of your darkness, you may have high mental illness, but you are also flourishing. You are succeeding in life and doing well despite your problems because you learned how to balance them out and focus on the good rather than on the bad. But on the other hand, lets say you had no mental health problems at all, yet you focused on the bad, held grudges, and chose not to cultivate your strengths, you would have no mental illness but you would be languishing. All of the factors we learned about after originally learning about Keye’s model, are the factors that make up and explain that model. When I first heard that you could have mental illness and still be flourishing, I thought it was just some weird thing that happened very rarely, but after learning about positive psychology and cultivating strengths, it dawned on me that it must be pretty common. Something that I also found interesting and have tried to implement in my own life, is the power of forgiveness. If someone cuts me off on 64 on my way to school, I just let it go, I acknowledge the thought and I just let it go away, I don’t let it effect my day anymore, whereas in the past I would have probably started yelling. I also now try and practice mindfulness every day before I go to sleep, I downloaded a meditation app that plays wonderful nature sounds and I just let go to the sound of birds chirping. I let go of the stresses of the day and I think about how tomorrow is a new day. Both of these has really helped me to not stress as much over little things that shouldn’t bother me.


Image Citation: University of Toronto. “Keye’s Complete Model of Mental Health.” University of Toronto at Scarborough, https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/flourish/about/ 

Applying Positive Psychology and Embracing Individual Strengths

Applying Positive Psychology and Embracing Individual Strengths

Throughout the past few weeks, I have dealt with many obstacles that have shaken up what is normally a very important thing to me: my daily routine. The recent weeks have been full of bad news, unfortunate situational circumstances, and what to me, feel like a series of tests for my strength and mental state. This isn’t new, its happened many times before, to me and well… everybody else at one time or another. This time I honestly did find my mind jumping toward our class lectures on positive psychology to help me cope with these problems, including the Wellbeing Theory, and specifically the PERMA model. I learned that following the PERMA model is necessary to achieve “Flow” in my life, a term that is described as finding the happy medium when cross-referencing skill and challenge, and also ideal conditions for Engagement (E).

We all face challenges in our lives, just like I have as of late, and realized since I started ruminating on these ideas in my daily life since, there must be something there that can be helpful to me. I began to ponder on the idea of building upon positivity in my life by leaning into the positive emotions I felt and manifesting them into action. This was told by Barbara Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build Theory”, which indulges the idea that if one broadens the path their mind takes when experiencing positive emotions they will flourish in their activities and relationships, and obtain the ability to broaden their personal resources in things such as their skills, knowledge, and social support. The theory explains that those steps would, in turn, enhance the most important aspects of their lives, promote wellness, and eventually lead to an uphill spiral in life creating a cycle of positivity. The idea that building on positive emotions could result in living a meaningful life was an enticing one, although of course not so simple when its attempted to be applied in real life.

During the week I had dealing with deadly storms in the place where my family lives, I actively tried to make mental connections from my positive emotions to attempt to experience strength and optimism to get through them. I hoped that doing this would help me to obtain strength and mental acuity to handle those situations and complete the tasks that were necessary, and in a lot of ways, it did work. For example, my travel anxiety had to be overcome to help my sister evacuate from her school due to the Hurricane. I felt accomplished after, realizing that this theory when applied really could work for me if I played to my strengths.

So, my strengths… For our class we VIA strengths survey, and I was most interested in my individual results. It was shown that my present top three strengths are Bravery, Forgiveness, and Leadership respectively. I was fascinated by these results as in the past few weeks dealing with the negative impacts of the events I was facing… I would have guessed those traits would have been close to the bottom. As I reflected, I realized that all of my life I have possessed those strength, and that sometimes I run away from them for reasons having to do with my mental state in how I felt about myself, my habit to self-doubt.

Throughout my career thus far as a Psychology major at VCU I’ve learned that there are positive mental rewards for achieving goals that required great effort and anticipation: a flood of mid-brain dopamine which encourages continued behavior of that nature. (A in PERMA is Achievement), and that’s a feeling that has enabled me to embrace the Fredrickson’s “Broaden and Build” theory.

I have realized since beginning to more thoroughly understand some of the theories of positive psychology, such as those discussed in class, that I am actually able to apply them to my life to reduce stress, feel a sense of reward, and minimize anxiety in my everyday routine. There are a vast amount of theories in psychology, including many conflicting theories, but utilizing the PERMA model, being conscious of how to “Broaden and Build”, as well as recognizing my strengths have already massively helped me. It is important to utilize what works for you, and I believe continuing to apply positive psychology to my everyday life will lead me down a path of positive well-being.

photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fmsc/8409777980

SOH-Fall18 – class work  2018-09-23 16:09:15

SOH-Fall18 – class work 2018-09-23 16:09:15

Pretty much all of the topics in this class are related as we saw in earlier lectures genetics plays a larger role in your predispositon to having a mental illness. but your environment  does as well. this can lead to some people being better able to handle some situations than others. this can lead to a disconnect with people when some are able to handle a situation easier than others. I see this often in my own family when im able to cope better with stress than my other family members for a while and this caused a disconnect between us. but in understanding these small natural differences you can better understand and empathize with others. This can also be seen by our strengths that each of us have will some people may be born with these strengths are given them because of there situation so that leads to even larger differences in how situations are handled. these strengths weren’t really something I had ever considered to be a real factor up to this point. I’ve started to try to use mindfulness when i’m feeling stressed but its been difficult to implement as I already have other stress out lets such as the gym but I feel as though if I can add this to my skills it could be useful for when it is difficult to get to the gym.  so all in all these topics we have talked about are all related and influenced by one another so its hard to say that you have taken away just one point. it just goes to show how complex of an issue this really is.

(image https://www.goldsgym.com/fairportny/) Image result for gym

Blog Post #1 – What I’ve Learned

Blog Post #1 – What I’ve Learned

Mental health is one of the biggest struggles that most people face on an everyday bases. It is an internal matter that with outside help and support you can eventually learned to control and maybe conquer instead of it controlling you.Over these past five weeks, I became more aware that there are many types of mental health levels. Genetics play a role in your mental health but how you decide to address it is how it can affect you. This past week we talked about personal strengths and how we develop new ones over time while maintaining some of the same ones. I believe that applying your top three strengths to your life while working on your last three or two not so strong will help enlighten those who struggle with mental health to focus on better themselves instead of the negatives. Our thoughts are also something that effect of mental health.This part of positive psychology is important because a lot of people have these thoughts but not everyone is able to see that it is all mental and getting past that mental obstacle is rather tough.   Knowing what thoughts bring us down or play a detrimental role on our conscious is valuable in finding ways to change our negative psych to one of positivity. The in class and out of class assignments really helped me tie what we learned in class to my life. Growing up mental health was not something that i really thought or knew much about but over these past weeks I feel that i have learned a lot on the topic. I feel that i have a better understanding of my own mental health and am happy to know that I am not alone in my journey of mental health and happiness.


Blog Post #1 – Mariam Tareq

Blog Post #1 – Mariam Tareq

In the last five weeks of this course, I really started to think more about how much mental health impacted everyones day to day life and especially mine. It shined a light on how important it is to recognize the things that are getting in your way of happiness. In the first week we were introduced to a quote by Lee Tolstoy, “If you want to be happy, be” and it was something that really resonated with me personally. The key model was interesting to me because although it was such a simple chart, it was something that anyone was able to relate to and compare their mental health to regardless of the spectrum they may be on. It really highlights that even someone that struggles with high mental health disorders can still rich a high flourishing level on the spectrum and someone who may have a low mental health level and still fall into the low flourishing areas. Something I never really considered when I thought about the personality of someone was their genetics and how that may have been part of shaping them. I knew some mental health was connected to genes but I didn’t really consider all of the possible ways genes could come into play. When thinking about this, I thought about myself and people I knew that were able to push past the cards they were dealt genetically and how they’ve learned to overcome challenges in their life that were impacted by mental health. It’s also so important to understand where toxic or negative energy in your life may be coming from and learn to eliminate that in order to grow and thrive into the best and happiest version of yourself. This really ties to the last week we have had in class, discussing our personal strengths and where they came from. After taking the survey and getting my results back I noticed how a lot of my top five and bottom five really were a result of what has been going on in the last year of my life and it comes to show that we are always growing and changing as people and there are many different aspects that can influence who we are.

Blog Post #1

Blog Post #1


(Picture of myself. This is a picture of my top trait, appreciation of beauty and excellence, in action. This is my happy place and how intentional activity has helped improve my mood.)

Initiating the class with the topic of genetics was a great way to set up the foundation and reasons behind the existence of the class. The graphic that expressed how genetics (50% of what makes us who we are), context (10%), and intentional activity (40%) worked together to make us who we are helped bridge the gap. It explained how genetics fits into behavior and what we can do to balance the effects of genetics with our intentional activity.  Keye’s model of complete mental health flourishing strengthed the previous chart by showing us the states of mind we could be put in due to our intentional activity despite nature (genetics) and nurture. The discussion of depression, anxiety, and moods explained the negative aspects of us all due to our genetics and our own neglect of ourselves. Talking about positive psychology and how we can strengthen our most and least prominent characteristics allowed us to take what we’ve learned about common negative genetic problems and the emotions we feel and work within that 40% of intentional activity to counteract the negative and bring more positivity into our lives.

The topics discussed in class appear to be quite different, but they do work together well. Nature, of course, is a completely separate issue from nurture, but they work together to make us who we are. We cannot change our nature, but we can most definitely still lead positive lives. There is a mix of research, information, and practical application in this class that gives us a more well-rounded experience. For example, the VIA test about our personality traits/characteristics was a way of applying what we learned the previous few weeks, and including all the traits and ranking them was a more positive psychological approach. My bottom trait was zest, but the test didn’t say I was absent of zest the way most personality tests tend to. This way, it is something I feel can work on. There is hope for zest in my life so long as I take steps to ensure that.

Prior to this class, I had absolutely no idea that there was that 10% of context that worked with your intentional activity and genetics. Learning this helped me to be easier on myself when I don’t see progress. The context of my life has always worked against, and I felt like I had to get out of that in order to apply intentional activity. Now, I understand that the intentional piece is separate from that. I have stopped trying to change the context of my life, and it has been the most freeing experience for me. In addition, knowing that 60% of my mental health and behavior are things I cannot change instead of 50/50 has helped relieve some of the pressure I put on “fixing” myself.

Blog Post #1

Blog Post #1

During the first five weeks of class, I have learned a great deal about different aspects of mental health. In the first couple of classes we covered how nature vs. nurture plays into depression. It is important to understand that yes, there is a genetic factor when it comes to being depressed, because it causes an imbalance of certain chemicals in your brain. However, I think that those traits are enhanced or reduced based on the environment the person is in. When I say environment I am talking about the people they are around, the weather (seasonal depression), how happy they are with their life style, etc. So many different things play into depression, it is hard to really pinpoint what sole factor caused it in the first place. We talked about the different studies that were done to prove that genetics plays a role in mental health, such as the one about the twins and how fraternal twins differ from identical twins. All these studies end up concluding the same thing, yes there is a correlation between genetics and depression, but it is not yet known to what degree.

Keye’s model shows that happiness or the lack there of, is not black and white, but instead it is on a spectrum. No one person is 100% happy and deals with no sadness or depression and same vise versa, no one is 100% unhappy.

Dr.Sood, gave us a very knowledgeable presentation about depression and different mood states. She emphasized how depression usually starts at an early age and its harder to detect due to that.She also talked about the different risk factors that contribute to depression such as being lonely, lack of social support, having history of depression in your family and substance abuse. One of the parts that really interested me was the science behind depression and how different neurotransmitters are inflamed when someone is depressed. My favorite part of her talk was how it is hard to get treatment or ask for help, and how medication is so looked down upon for mental health. I personally am trying to get tested for ADHD and after doing my research I came to two unfortunate conclusions-

1.  mental health treatment is EXPENSIVE

2. insurance covers barely any of the expenses

And to me that was very discouraging because it is already so hard to build the courage to ask for help but if it is going to cost so much then in a way it’s telling people to not get the help.

I also have gone to mental health counseling a handful amount of times and it has really helped my mental health but I am a senior and I was thinking about how after I graduate, these resources will no longer be offered to me and having to pay for counseling is a huge burden so I am trying to find other ways to keep my mental health in check for after I graduate.

The most recent topic covered in class was the introduction to positive psychology where we focused on the PERMA model. PERMA stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. Essentially all of these traits are necessary for someone to have a positive mindset. Personally I think the one most relevant to me is accomplishments because whenever I am in a bad mindset I remind myself of all of the things I have accomplished and that helps me get out of the bad rut. But we also focused on traits that help us deal with anxiety and depression and it came out out to be that my top trait is courage. I think that this is pretty accurate because whenever I feel like I am about to hit another wave of depression, I always make sure to go to counseling as soon as possible, because I refuse to let this disease impact my life. When I was first dealing with it and I had no idea what was going on with me, I really tired to figure it all out and never did I feel like I couldn’t ask for help because of the stigma around mental health. But I must add that I had a lot of friends who understood what I was going through and that really helped me get through it all. Something that stood out to me was that judgement is one of my weakest qualities. I really feel that this is something I want to work on. I am the type of person that does not really think things through and I kind of just jump into things and sometimes that really has a toll on my emotions so my newest goal is to think before I act.


Image result for stop the stigma on mental illness


Blog Post 1

Blog Post 1

Image result for quotes about positive mental health

The ideas of flourishing and languishing were new to me. Initially I thought flourishing was just growth and beauty, but never once did I think of how it could relate to me. This idea was supported by the week one reading, “Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing.” In the Keyes reading, I learned that flourishing is the promotion and maintenance of mental health. The more we talked about it in class, I realized that although languishing is the exact opposite of flourishing, you could be mentally healthy but also languishing. What stood out the most to me in this reading was that African Americans had higher rates of mental health than white Americans.

I feel that the assignment that has helped me the most to relate to the class content was the VIA strength survey. My strength was fairness. It was one that I was surprised to see, but after thinking about it, it made sense. It was just a skill that came naturally to me. But I was also surprised to see forgiveness at the bottom of my list because that’s a skill that I had worked on in the past. The other skills that were at the bottom of my list are the ones that I realized that if I improve them, it would help me to flourish.

I believe that everything that we’ve learned can tie into the idea of how we can help ourselves to flourish. I believe that they are different because they each consider a different approach toward mental health. In closing, although we cannot do much to change how genetics affect our behaviors, with a combination of the positive psychology methods and the cultivating strengths method, we can better cope with the ways mental illness, depression, anxiety, and mood states affect us so that we can flourish.


Blog Post #1

Blog Post #1

Over the past five weeks, we’ve been introduced to various concepts ranging from models, theories, terms, topics, and weekly readings. We were first introduced to the concept of Nature vs. Nurture. In this concept, essentially nature such as our genetics have already predisposed our way of being and our behavior, while nurture such as our environment, upbringing, relationships, and interactions influences our behavior. Genetics does play a factor in one’s behavior, for example, if a person has a family history of depression, then there is a likelihood of the person already being predisposed to be depressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person will be depressed.  It is important to note that there are many contributing factors that cause one’s happiness and not one situation will be the same for everyone. It is all important to note that one can be exposed to a certain situation, but that doesn’t mean that person will be hindered by that situation. For instance, a person who has had a treacherous upbringing and an overall hard life more than likely may be sad or depressed, however, that person may somehow find the strength to better themselves by changing his or her environment. Also, the individual’s negative upbringings can be a motivation to better him or herself to find happiness.

   I learned a lot from Keyes’ model of complete mental health. It is important to know the different parts that are associated with mental illness, and Keyes diagram indicates the four sections of mental illness by the following categories: high mental illness, low mental illness, low mental health, and high mental illness. An important aspect of Keyes’ model the idea of flourishing which is how we feel about our lives, and how we are functioning. This concept resonated with me because as of lately, I’ve just been living day by day with lots of stressors. I’ve all been doing a lot of soul searching trying to find my purpose and I’ve felt somewhat disconnected with my friends and family, and I need to work on all my situations so I can be a flourishing person that I know I can be.  

   Dr. Walsh introduced the class to the PERMA theory, which means Positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. After learning about this concept, I realized that I need to work on positive emotions. For the most part I would say that I’m a happy person, however, as of lately, I’ve felt so lost in so many aspects of my life especially my career path and with that came an extreme sense of sadness. I’m glad that I’ve realized and accepted the fact that I need to find ways to express positive emotions. For me, it is extremely important to be in a positive mindset because when I’m not I begin to overthink the smallest situations and from there I just simply stress myself out.

From the beginning of class, I learned what exactly the science of happiness is and what it is not. I came to class thinking the science of happiness was about ways to be happy, but that is not the case, as there is more to this topic. The science of happiness essentially is studying positive psychology and empirical sciences. I also have been able to distinguish between being sad and being depressed. I must admit, there have been many situations in which I’ve said “I’m depressed”, but I might have just been having a sad day. I think it is important for all of us to be aware when one is sad and one is depressed because there is a clear distinction.  

The activity that was most meaningful to me was the VIA Strength Survey. My top five strengths were prudence, fairness, gratitude, appreciation of beauty & excellence, and teamwork. I must admit that I was not surprised by most of my results, however, I was surprised that teamwork was one of my top five strengths. Although, if I were to be put in a situation where I had to work with other individuals I would do it without a fuss. I would also do my equal share of the work as well as taking my group members ideas into consideration. To add, I think the main reason why I found it surprising that teamwork is one of my top five strengths is because whenever I hear that an assignment has to be done in groups, my firsts reaction is to tense up a little because my preference is to work on my own. Also, I begin to worry about teamwork activities because I always want to give my best work and I don’t want my group members to think I’m giving the bare minimum. Overall, this survey has allowed me to realize my strengths; it is important that I continue on improving and cultivating my strengths because there is always room for improvement.

Another exercise that was extremely helpful was when I tracked my automatic thoughts. That week many situations were occurring back to back and I felt as my thoughts were all over the place. Since I was writing my thoughts down for a week, I felt a big stress removed from my shoulders because I was able to express my thoughts in writing, as opposed to holding everything in.  If there was a moment that I was feeling anxious or had a set of mood changes, I quickly wrote down my thoughts. Writing down my thoughts allowed me to reflect on my day and how I coped or dealt with situations. I encourage anyone to take a few minutes out of their busy schedule to write down their feelings, emotions, and thoughts and to reflect on it.



Happiness vs Materialism

Happiness vs Materialism

This first month of class and readings has been focused on what it means to be mentally healthy and how we can measure and increase mental health and happiness. In the readings mental health is looked at under a variety of lenses. Authors Dick, Adkins, and Kou looked at how genetics affects adolescent behavior. Adolescent behavior is difficult to study due to different environmental factors but is critical to understand. It can give insight into how youth will grow to perceive their world and what lens they will look through. Keyes article as well as positive psychology by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi share the theme of mental satisfaction. Mentally flourishing individuals feel better themselves while also have greater benefits to society. Everyone would like to feel better all the time but how do we get to that point? What can we do as individuals to be happier?

Unfortunately there is a little luck involved to being happy, genetics do play a part in happy one can be. Whether it be severe depression that is causing lack of dopamine and making it near impossible to get out of bed; or an inherited gene like LOC100288337 that is associated with alcohol problems. These factors people do not get a choice in. For many Americans with severe depression they do not seek treatment needed for a variety of factors. It could be not being able to get out of bed or others saying to get over it you’ll be fine. As a society we should focus on giving people good quality years of mental health rather than quick fixes like medication.


I thought it was interesting that in Differences in Character Among College Students that most had the weakness of self regulation and love of learning. The self regulation makes sense because it is new environment with little parental oversight. This is the time period where we have to figure it out on our own to make life work. As for the love of learning in my sociology studies I have found it can be traced back to standardized testing becoming the new educational norm to follow. Not only does it makes students memorize boring fact it also takes away the passion a teacher can provide to their class about a topic. I would imagine after a few years of reading off a paper that work becomes dull and uninteresting.


I found the Positive Psychology reading to be very helpful in relating this class to myself. It gave me a starting point when “needs” were brought up. According to the article humans need competence, belongingness, and autonomy. If you focus on making sure these needs are met and keep an optimistic outlook it can really go a long way in how you feel about yourself and others. The optimism part has been the hardest for me I have been a pessimistic person for a long time now because my rationale was that it was less likely to be disappointed. I did find that I was less disappointed by things and others actions but was not happy. I will continue to work at this whole optimism thing until it finally sticks.


On a side note a quote from the depression reading that I thought was interesting was, “emphasis on having rather than being in society was a symptom of a sick society.”

SOH-Fall18 – Ashley Greenlee Website 2018-09-22 11:44:50

SOH-Fall18 – Ashley Greenlee Website 2018-09-22 11:44:50


During one our classes, we learned about the infamous nature vs. nurture argument. I have heard about this argument since I was in high school, but I learned more about how behavior can be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors in this class. For example, I thought that genetic and environmental factors influenced different behaviors but not the same. However, in Dr. Dick’s research paper on “Genetic Influences on Adolescent Behavior”, the results of smoking behavior in adolescents showed that genetics played a bigger influence in early adolescents and as the kids grew older environmental factors started to have a greater influence.

I also learned how even though genetics account for 50% of human behavior, intentional activity (environmental factors) can help make changes in our behavior too. For example, in our first reading, we learned about Keyes’ Model of Complete Mental Health and Flourishing. I have never heard of this model until this class. Part of the study showed that people who did not have a mental illness and were languishing had higher percentages of mental disorders than people who were moderately mentally healthy and flourishing. In our first discussion, we talked about how genetic and environmental factors can relate to Keyes Model. Even though a person could be considered languishing doesn’t mean that they will forever stay in that category. Environmental factors could help them move into the flourishing category.

The genetic and environmental factors could also apply to the VIA Strength Surveys. In class when Dr. Walsh showed us her results after every year, some of her top five character strengths were consistent throughout the years but some new strengths also showed up every year and she talked about what how her environment possibly developed these new strengths. Even though I did not take strength surveys every year, I had taken one last semester.  My top five this semester were gratitude, judgment, prudence, perspective, and love while last year was judgment, perspective, spirituality, prudence, and appreciation of beauty and excellence. By comparing the results, I would assume that judgment, perspective, and prudence were probably more genetic influences than environmental influences. This would make sense because I believe most of my family members carry these strengths as well. However, gratitude, love, and appreciation of beauty and excellence were ranked very differently since the last semester. Even though, I only took this twice, this makes me wonder if this was more of an environmental influence and if so, what changed in my environment to make this difference? In the previous semester, I didn’t feel like I had that type of connection with my friends or family. However, over the summer, I took an internship in another state. Even though I lived alone and didn’t know many people around the area, a lot of my friends and family came to visit me or check on me. This made me realize some of the connections I had with extended family members and friends that I didn’t realize last semester, which could be the reason why love became a top five this semester.

Blog Post #1

“If you want to be happy, be.”. This quote, by Leo Tolstoy, really stuck with me when I saw it typed on the screen, hence why I named my blog after it. Not only do these words embody how I wish my mind worked but it also truly represents a key factor to well-being we learned about in class. The key to thrive lies not only within genetics, while this is still a major influence, but also in how you chose to interact with your environment.  This phenomena is craftily represented in a model called the Keyes’ Model of Complete Mental Health/Well-being. It represents that it is possible to flourish, reach high mental health, with a high mental illness which is hereditary and can exist in the form of depression, anxiety, etc. It also demonstrates how it is very possible to ‘languish’ with no prerequisite illness and it credits this and the fact that happiness is achievable while suffering from an illness to self-controlled actions. While genetics do play a role it, has been studied and concluded that they are only about half of the problem, this gave me hope because when I tracked depression in my family tree it ran in females on my mom’s side which would potentially include me. Even if I inherited depression I have and will many options to shape my life. I could do this why building strong relationships and keeping healthy, which I do by visiting the gym at least 5 times a week. I also learned how these genetic influences could become more or less relevant throughout my life, for example in the stressful years of adolescence I am at a higher risk of all sorts of things, especially the formation of alcohol and nicotine addiction.  It was also presented to me, that really monitoring my thoughts, by journaling like we did in a weekly assignment, would be vital for me to help understand why I have certain negative thoughts and then work to counteract them with reflection. This, as well as daily meditations and simple facts have helped me look at the bright side and I am excited to continue the journey of this class until the end of the semester.




Dont Worry, Be Happy – SOH blog post 2018

Dont Worry, Be Happy – SOH blog post 2018


The course “Science of Happiness” is filled with wholistic information on factors that influence mental wellbeing, resources and practices that to improve wellness. There moments during the course when I have asked myself “what does this have to do with happiness or its study”. It was unclear to me why translational sciences or the genetics of mental illness would be needed in order to study or understand happiness. While pondering each class and their correlation to one another I realized that each topic is carefully structured.

The course begins with introducing genetics and predisposition to certain disorders. This introduces the question if certain people are more likely to “be happy” or live a more fulfilling life than others. Although genetics does play a great role on mental inflictions, they can be managed or even counteracted by life each person chooses to live.

Next happiness was introduced using Keyes’ Model of Complete Mental Health. This model explains, much to my surprise, that anyone can reach the level of “flourishing”. It is possible to be happy, to flourish and live a fulfilling life in spite of mental illness. In this model flourishing isn’t simply financial or academic. It encompasses self-worth and actualization.

After a clear idea of happiness and its factors was presented, science and translation science was introduced. As aforementioned, I did not really understand why this necessary for this course. Through this course I realized that, some of my fellow classmates and myself included, had a very bleak and biased image of what “science” is. As a biology student, my definition of science is long boring lectures discussing scientific theories and findings, posters, lab coats, goggles, test tubes and chemicals. Now I understand that it’s even more broad than I thought. The topics discussed in this course truly is based on “systematic and structured study” of genetics, social behavior and happiness itself.

One of the most important aspect of studying science or becoming a science is communicating your findings to diverse audiences. This is when I understood why translation science of included in this course. To be able to write scientific papers, conduct presentations or even discuss findings with a colleague requires being able to understand your target listener. This means generalizing information, making it more specific and even eliminating scientific jargon based on whom the information is directed.

Overall, this is a course that any and every one can appreciate. Each topic discussed will influence each student differently based on their experiences.

All Eyes on the NRA

All Eyes on the NRA


All Eyes on the NRA

     As the National Rifle Association (NRA) has grown to become the largest political force as America’s defender of the Second Amendment, its extravagance in trying to change gun control policies have also implemented fear among American citizens. With the increasing vote for gun control, numerous questions have surfaced. The most important being this: Are the intentions of the NRA socially accepted with its irrationalities? The NRA is seen at its best when using false and irrational information in their digital videos to manipulate viewers (Luo). The ethical behavior of the NRA has been widely scrutinized, with supporters arguing “gun control isn’t crime control” through propaganda and others in favor of gun control(Davidson). I argue that NRA uses unethical tactics to achieve their popularity and voice their platforms.

The National Rifle Association has stood since 1871, and is an American nonprofit organization that advocates for gun rights. It is constructed of five million members who strive to advance rifle marksmanship and educate citizens on firearm safety and competency. According the NRA itself, “since its inception, [the NRA] has been the premier firearms education organization in the world”(Nat’l Rifle Association). They have also published hundreds of magazines and digital videos that influence legislation and have initiated lawsuits.

The NRA has been deemed one of the most feared lobbying organization in the nation’s capital since its shift in campaigning. One of the key differences between the NRA’s sedated past and its current dignity is about how they communicate about guns, gun control, and the organization itself. In Osha Davidson’s book Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control, he writes about the rise of the NRA from a political perspective. It is suggested that the 1977 Gun Revolt helped facilitate this shift in which they pushed to be a political force and cultivated the gun culture war. It is noted in the book that Ronald Reagan and Harlon Carter “climbed the steps to invincibility” and gained slightly over one million members (Davidson). Since then the NRA has accumulated over five million members; however, the NRA’s rhetorical overkill would come back to bite them.

A primary reason the NRA is unethical is the language they choose to facilitate in. In Scott Melzer’s book Gun Crusaders: The NRA’s Culture War, he describes in what ways the NRA appeal to citizens. After the numerous changes in campaigning, recruitment videos narrated by Charlton Heston were made in which he “warned that Americans could easily lose their Second Amendment gun rights, and, if that happened, the torch of freedom would lose its flame” (Melzer). In time Heston became favored by his fellow “crusade” and shed spotlight on the religious and moral aspects of gun freedom. His ideology in which he stated, “…the European Jews feared to admit their faith. The Nazis forced them to wear yellow stars…so what color star will they pin on gun owners’ chests?” was to remind people that gun rights are a faith and should not be given over. The fact that NRA advocates are comparing the Holocaust to gun rights is undeniably offensive and threatening to religious people. The NRA’s shift in campaigning have managed to target gun right advocates who offend different cultures and still do today.

NRA is notoriously known for generating support by influencing people’s perceptions even though they do not match reality. In a Law journal published by Scott Medlock NRA=No Rational Argument, he covers how the NRA has managed to become so powerful by irrational means. For example, the NRA strongly encourages the perception that individual safety coincides with gun ownership. One way they help depict this is their “Armed Citizens” section of NRA magazines where they share memoirs of them protecting themselves from crime with guns. As one could see this presents itself as one “taking control of their own destiny” but in reality, it may have not been the best decision (Medlock). The NRA also emphasizes that police cannot protect society therefore, firearms are used as an equalizer. A popular slogan by the NRA is “rapists love gun control” implying that women are more vulnerable to attacks when they are unarmed (Medlock). This is not only offensive, it is also sexist and should be unappealing to women. The NRA is exceptionally good at depicting the world as a hazardous place in these ways and many more.

Perhaps the most unethical behaviorbehind the NRA are their media tactics. Currently speaking, the NRATV have released a collection of videos on the Web that have gone past the status quo of the NRA. In one video that the NRATV released, they directed it toward The Times for sharing their violent protesters in the news. The video was narrated by spokeswoman, Loesch, who expressed her solution as “to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding, until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.” (Lou) The NRA also went after The Washington Post when a comment was made after Dom Raso, a former Navy Seal, narrated a video expressing his political opinion on government as “an anarchy, led by people who hate our President and who hate the people who support him” (Lou). By repeating the same messages and arguments, the supporters begin to regurgitate themselves without a doubt. The same words are inserted into the sub consciousness of all NRA supporters. It is obvious they use their media platforms to assassinate the real news.

In contrast, supporters argue that the NRA is not unethical because they take safety precautions very seriously. There has been heavier talk about whether or not teacher should be armed at school and what precautions it has on safety. In Shah Yagana’s articleNRA Aims to Arm Teachers, Personnel for School Safety, she focuses in on the NRA’s stance on safety in the school system. She reported that the NRA claims that arming teachers and other personnel is the best approach to combat gun violence in schools (Shah). The group also assessed schools all over the country for “security vulnerabilities”, best practices and technologies (Shah). The assessment of schools should be a priority to help prevent school shootings, but arming teachers isn’t the best solution. This creates a gap of authority; one that the NRA casts on its supporters. I argue this authoritative stratagem is a way for the NRA to gain support by irrational and false accusations. Although they may want to protect students, it is just another way to have a necessity for gun usage in America.

NRA supporters value their commitment to national charities such as Speedway Children’s Charities. In one instance, they teamed up at the Starkey Hearing Foundation to “deliver the gift of hearing to more than 70 underserved children and adults throughout the Carolinas” (Starkey Hearing Foundation). They had NASCAR racers there to sign autographs and take pictures. However, recently after the Parkland high school shooting the SMI (Speedway Motor Inc.) is still devoted to the NRA. According to USA Today, it is untold as to why they still share a partnership, but they “have been a good long-standing partnership and plan to continue”(Hembree). From a NRA advocate’s point of view, they are helping people in need, especially children which is a positive thing. But why are they doing it? It seems like NRA is hanging on by its last string by putting on a mask society is familiar with.

In summary, I argue that the National Rifle Association utilizes unethical policies to reiterate a simple message- one being that guns are harmless and a sign of freedom.The NRA clearly utilizes guns as an excuse for their outrage. This group primarily seeks to gain membership by exploiting different types of people and their cultures. Through their unacceptable jargon and manipulation, the NRA finds its way to get a handle on a way to appeal to certain types of people whether it be women, children, or mothers. They also produce fearful videos that pose threats on other groups/people that do not stand with them. With the NRA climbing to five million members, it results in a feared society. If society shows they are not fearful by continuing to speak out the NRA will be overworked.  I encourage citizens to keep scrutinizing the NRA for understanding and rebuttal. The NRA has preyed on fear and hate for several years now. As the NRA grows, I hope they can find different ways to voice their opinions.

Writers Memo

     As my final assignment for Focused Inquiry I was asked to demonstrate ethical reasoning in an argument using academic research. I chose to gear my mind toward gun control because of recent incidents where guns and its supporters have created major controversy in society. After doing surface level research, my ethical argument stood as a question that illegitimates the NRA and traces back to why the NRA has become feared. Through my research I found it easy to find articles, journals, videos, and other media platforms that criticize the NRA and do not favor their group. Although I found a vast amount of information, I thought it would be most useful to my audience if I focused on the shift in policy, how the NRA evokes fear in society through language, and their media usage to reiterate their simple message. It was harder for me to come up with a counter argument due to my morals and the Web itself because the majority of society does not favor the NRA; the only sources I found were from the NRA themselves. My goal in this essay was to put in perspective what the NRA is like and how they carry themselves for the sake of students and others who aren’t aware of such a fearful group.